Johannesburg - Two years ago, a portly, long-haired George Louca sat in a poorly lit holding cell beneath the Limassol Magistrate’s Court in Cyprus, adamant he was “no killer”.
On Monday, he stood under the bright lights above the dock at the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court – broke, slimmer and with a neat, short haircut and moustache.
Heavily armed Special Task Force officers clad in their distinctive camouflage uniforms and berets indicated just how important his return to South Africa is in the broader battle to root out corrupt senior officers in the SAPS and effectively smash the underworld of organised crime.
Two years ago, sitting in the Limassol holding cell, where he was trying to fight his extradition to South Africa on charges of murdering notorious strip-club chain boss Lolly Jackson, Louca told The Star his life would be in danger if he returned home because of what he knew about the underworld, and especially the “big names”.
Louca was extradited from Cyprus at the weekend, arriving at OR Tambo International Airport on Sunday.
Louca was last seen in South Africa shortly after Jackson’s murder in May 2010, allegedly making his confession to a crime intelligence head before escaping the country.
But after about 20 months of legal battles since his arrest in Cyprus, he failed to overturn the order to return to face charges for the murder.
On Monday, he told the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court – in Greek – that he would need time to consult his family about finances to find an attorney to represent him.
After two years without an income and paying a former judge of the European Court of Human Rights to be his lawyer to fight his extradition, the alleged hitman might be broke.
And his dire financial situation might make his search for a lawyer to represent him even more difficult.
National Prosecuting Authority prosecutor JJ du Toit told the court that Louca would face several charges, but not all directly related to the killing.
Jackson’s murder and the possession of the illegal firearm and ammunition used to do the deed were, in fact, last on the list.
The other charges concern possession of stolen property, for crimes he committed in 2006 and 2007, where he was holding R1.5 million worth of goods from Skye Footwear, and another R280 000 worth of property from other companies.
He is also to be charged with racketeering and money laundering that took place between July 2008 and December 2009.
While police sources originally said there was no security threat surrounding Louca and his case, the court was monitored by Special Task Force members, the elite of SAPS units.
This is a considerable step up from the Tactical Response Team members monitoring the current cases involving Czech businessman Radovan Krejcir, who ironically once shared a cell with Louca.
Louca’s name has also emerged in the SA Revenue Service preservation order against Krejcir, who was recently arrested on a kidnapping and attempted murder charge.
In Sars’s founding affidavit, it reveals that Louca had borrowed more than R3.7m in loans from the company linked to Krejcir, G2B.
When Louca defaulted on his payments, a number of expensive assets were seized, including a Bavaria Motoryacht and dozens of vehicles.
While his lawyer in Cyprus, Loukis Loucaides, was unwilling to comment on his client’s finances, it’s still unclear whether Louca will have to resort to a Legal Aid lawyer for his case, which is set to return to court next Tuesday.